The owners of Macumba Latina, 477 River St. in Mattapan Square, say they've fired two bouncers who failed in their main job of watching the club's supposedly locked rear door, letting in a man who then shot two men - one a club regular - in what seemed like a planned hit early on Sept. 4.
At a hearing before the Boston Licensing Board on Tuesday morning, co-owners Max Fernandes and John Lopes said the way the door was opened may indicate more than just laziness or bad judgment on the part of the two bouncers, one whose job was to watch the door from the inside, the other who was supposed to replace him should he be called away.
Fernandes said that after the double shooting, the door watcher told him he had left to use the restroom. But the other guard, who was assigned to restroom duty but he was supposed to fill in watching the door, claimed he never saw the other guy enter the restroom - and did not replace him at the door.
"What a coincidence, you leave to go to the bathroom, your backup guy, he don't see you go to the bathroom, you both have radios," Fernandes recalled thinking after he interviewed the guy. "I've been in business a long enough time to know it's not a coincidence, it's not possible."
He said both bouncers had only worked at the club for about a year, and that the bathroom guy was replacing a longtime employee who happened to be out that night. So the shooter and his accomplices "had a perfect night it was planned and seemed like everything worked out for them," he said.
The Boston Police Department arrested one man fleeing from the scene they say had a 9-mm gun in his waistband, but with no magazine. He's been charged for that, but not the shootings. Police found a magazine with 26 rounds inside the club, along with a second 9-mm gun loaded with nine rounds - and a single spent casing. Police found one victim in a car at Blue Hill Avenue and Walk Hill Street, with a bullet wound to his buttocks and scrotum, and say the second victim, shot in the thigh, got himself to Milton Hospital.
Fernandes suggested the shooter likely knew of Macumba Latina's tough weapons frisking at the front door, so they tried getting in through the back. Fernandes said the front-door bouncer who pats down men has been with the club for years and is expert at finding weapons, but more typically knives than guns. In fact, he said, the bouncer had removed a knife from one of the night's shooting victims before he entered. The other victim - and possible target - he said, was a club regular, who arrived that night and said hello to him at the bar, before heading further into the club.
Around 12:45 a.m., Lopes, working the front door, said he heard a single shot, and then the man grabbed his hand and said he's been shot. Club bartenders and other employees, immediately dialed 911, but neither he nor the other victim waited for an ambulance, as people began streaming and screaming out onto River Street.
Fernandes admitted he might have inadvertently let one of the shooter's accomplices inside the club. He said that at one point, he was in the kitchen, helping an employee bring in ice from outside, because the club ice maker was broken, when the ice guy told him he thought he saw somebody come in the back door, which at the time could only be opened from the outside with a key. Surprised, Fernandes said he went to the back of the club, and sure enough, found some guy who had just come in. He asked him what and how, and the guy made up some story about being scared to come in the front because one of his friends didn't have proper ID, but he was OK, Fernandes could pat him down. Fernandes did pat him down, didn't find any weapons, and let him come into the club.
At issue at today's hearings was whether Macumba Latina could have foreseen or done anything to prevent the shootings.
Fernandes, who did most of the talking, under questioning from his attorney, William Rehrey, said the club, which has been open for 19 years, has simply never had something like this happen before. However, he said Macumba is now in the middle of a series of upgrades to make sure it never happens again: The handle and lock on the rear door have been removed, making it completely impossible to open from the outside; an alarm is being installed at the door as well. Broken outdoor lights have been replaced there and along a driveway on the side of the club. And on busy nights, the club will bring in an armed security guard who will park his cruiser in the driveway to keep an eye on things there.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce also demanded the club file a detailed security plan, describing just how the club is staffed with bouncers and guards and how the staff is trained. She told Fernandes and Lopes this is at least the third time the board has asked for a written plan and that given the seriousness of what happened last month, this time they really need to supply one. Also, she reminded them that if the club brings in armed security guards, it needs to notify the city.
The board has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday afternoon to vote on what to do, if anything, about the police citation for two counts of patron-on-patron assault and battery inside the premises.